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Accelerate Development: Build, Test, Learn

Big design changes late in the development process can be costly in terms of budget and time frame. Configuration decisions, feature set trade-offs, and market pivots should happen in early development to avoid time consuming rework later.  Within our process, we use a Rapid Development Cycles, in a Validation Triage to test critical assumptions early and often. This approach provides a disciplined, intentional way to validate or invalidate the most important assumptions about users, features, and the suitability of a design for manufacture. The result is a lower likelihood of major design changes or pivots in the late stages of development, where changes can require significant re-work.

Develop The Right Product

By applying Rapid Development Cycles, assumptions about feature sets, use-cases, and users can be tested throughout development. This maximizes the likelihood that the final optimized design will include features that users want, and that the market is willing to pay for. The same approach helps ensure that the final design is compatible with manufacturing requirements and constraints, reducing the likelihood for surprises leading up to production startup.

Rapid Development Cycles, a Critical Developoment Tool

The specific project structure for each project is defined base don the specifics of the development effort. The project structure is driven by budget, level of risk, development complexity, and timelines. Rapid Development Cycles are at the heart of our development philosophy, and are a critical part of most projects, regardless of the specific project structure. Our most common phased-project structure is shown below. Rapid Development Cycles are used in all of the phases.

The goal of this phase is to identify existing technology to achieve the intended high-level function. If technology can be purchased as opposed to developed, the scope of subsequent development phases changes.

In this phase, we focus on documenting the critical functionality, constraints, and inputs to the design. This is a critical step to keep development focused, identify the high-risk areas, and ensure that scope creep is minimized later.

Initial shape development work identifies options for form, as well as possible approaches for complex mechanical engineering challenges. Initial flowchart of software/firmware also happens here, as well as concept design level user interface work. Aesthetic prototypes may be included in this Phase, if appropriate. Prototype in this phase will not typically be functional.

Based on decisions made at the end of Phase 2, actual engineering programming can start. In this phase, Level 1 prototypes are often used to test approaches to technical challenges.

This part of the project is where we focus on rapid cycles, quickly developing designs and prototypes, as the depth of engineering work increases. This phase can include Level 2 and 3 prototypes, typically through multiple cycles. Some products require as many as twenty prototype cycles in this phase. Others may only require two or three.

With all assumptions tested and validated, the design can be finalized and then optimized for production. To properly optimize for production, we take into account the target production volumes, as well as the requirements of the manufacturer. Regulatory work may start in this phase.

Before production starts, tooling is produced, and initial units are inspected. Final changes are negotiated with the manufacturer. Regulatory work also should wrap up in this phase.